Recommendations on solid waste management: How govt action falls short

The standing committee on urban development made 37 recommendations, 14 of which were accepted by the Union government

By Shailshree Tewari
Published: Thursday 20 May 2021
The parliamentary standing committee on urban development March 17, 2021 submitted a report on action taken by the Union government on recommendations to improve solid waste management. Photo: Vikas Choudhary

The parliamentary Standing Committee on Urban Development March 17, 2021 submitted a report on action taken by the Union government on its recommendations to improve solid waste management.

The 25th report of the Standing Committee on urban development provided details of the action taken by the Union government on its recommendations, made in another report on February 12, 2019.

The committee made 37 recommendations, out of which 14 were accepted by the Union government. Action taken for 21 were not accepted by the committee; and response for two was awaited.

While observing that waste management has become a major issue, the committee asked the Union government to provide fresh responses to several recommendations as most responses were ‘incomplete’.

Here, we look at the recommendations that have not been addressed properly by the Union government.

  • Review the issue of SWM (Solid Waste Management) in the country in a holistic manner

Recommendations: The committee asked the government to review the challenges of SWM in a manner that involves all stakeholders.

It stressed that a roadmap be charted and funds be arranged to address the challenge. To deal with the disposal of solid waste, the committee urged the central and state government as well as urban local bodies (ULB) to come up with a conjunct initiative.

India does not have the infrastructure needed for SWM, like in European countries and the United States. The committee instructed that ministries concerned as well as ULBs / state governments work on making the infrastructure needed to subsume solid waste.

It was counselled that the Union government ought to total an integrated mechanism of SWM with trade and informal sector. Since the composition of waste has evolved over the years, the committee demanded planning the waste process technology upon understanding the composition of waste generated.

The committee noted that the Central Pollution Control Board expressed its helplessness before regarding non-availability of accurate data. To understand the same, the committee opined that correct knowledge on the amount of waste generated be collected.

Action taken by the government: The Union government has specified that SWM Rules, 2016 have arranged down the roadmap for the scientific management of solid waste.  Help is provided to states through Swachh Asian country Mission (SBM), and there has been vital improvement within the process of SWM and door-to-door collection.

As sanitation could be a state subject, states and ULBs are completing their statutory responsibility in scientific SWM through their own sanitation workers, through aid teams (self-help groups), non-profits, integration of rag pickers, informal sector, etc. The committee expressed its discontentedness with the inconvenience of information on waste composition.

  • Drawing up a phase-wise time table for achieving of source segregation by October 2019

Recommendations: The committee counselled coming up with a phase-wise timetable that would facilitate achievement of scientific SWM through segregation of waste at source. Un-segregated waste is not collected in states such as Goa and Kerala. Similar practices promoting waste segregation ought to be extended to other parts of the country as well.

Action taken by the Government: The government has listed awareness drives and cities rating for cleanliness. However, the committee acknowledged that a timetable as instructed was absent.

  • Promoting door-to-door collection of waste by subsiding waste collection by ULBs

Recommendations: Registration of rag-pickers, as decided by the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) helps in reducing waste handling prices, and avoiding huge quantity of waste dumping at the landfills. 

However, subsidised door-to-door waste collection is usually recommended, The committee has also been informed by MoHUA that it should be according to the SWM Rules. The committee found that the relevant rules stipulate that the generator would have to pay user fees for waste collection.

The committee recommended that door-to-door collection of waste by charging users for waste collection be started by all ULBs across the states / Union territories.

Action taken by the government: MoHUA responded that it engages with states / UTs and ULBs regarding integration of informal waste pickers / rag pickers in waste management. The integration was also made part of the assessments under Swachh Survekshans and the certification of Garbage Free Star Rating of Cities.

However, the actual registration of rag pickers has to be carried out by the states / UTs and ULBs concerned. The committee, however, found that full sweep of the recommendation made by them has not been addressed in action taken replies furnished before them. The committee, therefore, reiterated that their aforesaid recommendations should be well understood and addressed fully in final action taken reply of the MOHUA.

  • Tackling of sanitary waste by adequate allocation of funds for its appropriate handling

Recommendations: The committee examination revealed 2,000 tonnes of sanitary waste is generated in India every day. This can be disposed of carelessly creating the informal workers at the risk of deadly diseases such as HIV, hepatitis B and C and Ebola virus.

The committee opined that the makers of diapers and hygienic napkins ought to explore the utilisation of materials used in the product. The Union health ministry was asked to apportion adequate funds to better manage hygienic waste.

The committee conjointly noted the gap in fund allocation, release as well as utilisation. As against the Mission allocation of Rs 7,365.82 crore, the releases were as low as Rs 3,284.79 crore.

Moreover, as against Rs 1490.65 crore large integer of ‘Utilization Certificates (UCs)’, the amount received was Rs 1,116.83 crore. The trend was similar across major states like Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

Action taken by the government: MoHUA expressed that health was a state subject and that medical and hygienic waste disposal came under the state’s responsibility and giving state-wise funds given for financial year 2019-20 on full utilisation of SWM funds.

Further, under National Health Mission, financial support is being provided to states / UTs for management of bio-medical waste under quality assurance and infection management and environment Plan (IMEP), which includes training, supplies, equipment, operationalisation of IMEP services at public health facility.

The amount spent under SWM has been mentioned by the ministry. However, the committee reiterated its recommendations for obtaining comprehensive final action taken replies from the government.

  • Project, planning and implementation of waste-to-compost (WTC) plant criticised. The Union government asked to open WTC Plants in all states in the country in a big way

 Recommendations: The Committee noted a few WTC plants were running below their annual installed capacity. The government was asked to establish such plants across the country with a PAN India license. Similarly, Waste-to-Energy (WTE) plants and technology ought to be examined.

Action taken: The ministry stated that the roadmap given in the SWM Rules, 2016 was being implemented by the states / UTs and ULBs. However, the committee is constrained to note that important aspects concerning WTC that have hardly been addressed in action taken replies.

Therefore, in view of the above, the committee reiterated their recommendations and urged for submission of complete final action taken.

  • Strict enforcement of available provision for solid waste management

Recommendations: The committee in its original report demanded the existing legal provisions to be enforced strictly. The committee observed that E-Waste (Management) Rules (EWM) contained several good things just like the convergence of various stakeholders including manufacturers, dealers, e-retailers, etc., simplification in registration / authorisation for disassembly under one system, retreating or recall of the product from the market just in case of non-compliance and alternative provisions.

The Committee also observed that 178 authorised recyclers and dismantlers were too less and needed to be suitably enhanced to broaden the scope of recycling and dismantling of e-waste, and that implementation of rules framed under the E-Waste Management, 2016 was far from satisfactory.

Action taken: MOHUA has thrust the issue of e-waste management on the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and Environment and Forests & Climate Change. The committee, therefore, reiterated that the MOHUA furnish a comprehensive final action taken reply covering all aspects raised by them.

  • Extensive use of plastic for road construction

Recommendations: The committee counselled that landfills are disincentivised and transformed into parks instead. The committee noted that according to NITI Aayog, the country is going to lose approximate 1240 hectares of additional land every year.

Further, to cut back plastic waste from getting dumped, the committee strongly recommend that issue of plastic for road construction purposes be promoted in a big way across states / UTs.

The funding pattern for ULBs was instructed to be reviewed to make sure that ULBs can carry out SWM projects on their own.

 Action taken: Just like in the case of most recommendations, the government provided imprecise and incomplete responses and failed to address the committee’s suggestion. 

While reviewing the funding pattern, the government disagreed stating that the ministry was only providing help generic to all states / UTs as set by the cabinet and that SWM could be a state subject. In view of this, the committee sensed that MOHUA did not even evaluate the valuable suggestions offered by the committee on aforesaid issues.

It seems like one of the primary reasons in dealing with the issue of waste management is coordination between the various agencies and stakeholders. The central government is limited to making rules and providing funds while responsibility of implementation is with the state’s local bodies.

 Another possible reason could be the generation of solid waste which is increasing due to a growing global population, urbanisation and economic growth, coupled with changing production and consumption behaviour.

The increase in population has not only changed the physical size of the cities due to large-scale of migration. The rate of the urban population of India has been increasing due to the rapid developments and industrialisation.

According to the Planning Commission Report (2014), around 377 million urban people generated 62 million tonnes of MSW a year. It is predicted that by 2031, the generation of MSW a year will be approximately 165 million tonnes and by 2050, it may be extended up to 436 million tonnes / annum.

According to the Press Information Bureau (2016), Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, 43 million tonnes of waste is collected per annum, 11.9 million is processed and 31 million is discarded into landfills. This indicates that only near about 75-80 per cent of the MSW is accumulated and only 22-28 per cent of this waste is treated and processed for resource recovery in India.

With the improvement of lifestyles and societal eminence of the population in urban cities, the quantity of municipal solid waste has also intensified tremendously and opportunities for improvement remain particularly pronounced in urban low-and-middle-income settings, where solid waste management is characterised by low waste collection coverage, lack of treatment and inadequate disposal.

Many appropriate solutions are hindered given the fast and unregulated growth of settlements in topographically often challenging areas, lack of financial resources, ineffective organizational structure, lack of utilisation of local innovation and local expertise and minimal enforcement of policy and legislation.

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.